Amid the craziness of the election campaign, Froth caught up with Albo – aka Anthony Albanese, MP for Grayndler in Sydney’s inner west and shadow minister for infrastructure – to chat craft beer, campaigning, charity and what he would do if he was PM.
How are you finding the campaign? Is it exciting or just exhausting?
Oh good – it’s been a bit crazy, a very busy time! It’s pretty full on. But I quite enjoy it. People are focused on politics now who wouldn’t usually be, so I quite like campaigning, I like meeting people. First stop in the electorate is usually pretty good, and I do train stations a couple of times a week, and I’m meeting lots of people. I just popped home to feed the dog and then I have to go to a function tonight … it’s very busy!
Last year Willie the Boatman released the “Albo” Corn Ale, what was that like having a beer named after you?
It was a great honour, and a bit of fun. And it’s gone much better than I think Willie the Boatman, the brewers, thought it would. They name their beers after local identities, so there’s one after a local plumber and one after a local school teacher, and so I got a beer named after me. They didn’t ask in advance, they just did it and then I found out about it. So when I got to taste it, it was a great relief that I really enjoyed it! It’s funny being in a pub because it’s on tap in about 18 pubs and bars in my electorate. It’s quite unusual to walk into a pub and see your name on a tap! It’s gone extremely well and the good thing is that what began as a couple of mates essentially having a bit of fun is now employing people full-time and the company has grown and it’s been its most successful brew. So that’s been really positive! And it comes in longnecks too which is old school so I like that.
The cost of craft beer is incredibly expensive in Australia compare to other countries such as the US – is that something that Labor could address if they were in power?
Well yeah I think there is a real demand for it, and we’re seeing that with people literally voting with their orders, because it’s brewed locally, it’s employing local people, it’s got benefits and flow-on effects for local suppliers. Also unlike mass-produced beer you get a freshness and crispness of it as well. And there’s been an enormous growth in the inner west [of Sydney] in craft beers, and I think people want it, it’s part of the general move towards food and beverages being done locally and sourced locally. I think beers are part of that.
The breweries themselves, there’s a few around here – Batch, Young Henry’s – they’re fantastic places to sit and have a beer, they’ve got an atmosphere to them that is about local community and I think people want to feel that. And they sponsor local charities and local events – they tend to be connected to those local communities, I know that Willie the Boatman for example has been a contributor to local schools and local fundraising events as well for local charities and organisations. I know that Young Henry’s and Batch have done that as well.
Do you think with the rise of craft beer in Australia that one day we will get a Minister for Beer?
Hahaha – I think that’s probably unlikely. But I’m sure there’d be no shortage of takers.
On a political level, what is the most important thing to you about shaping the future of Australia?
I think that providing opportunities for everyone to get a chance in life – for young people through education and training, and through the government setting economic policies that provide for the jobs of the future for those people. I also have a particular interest in infrastructure and making sure that we have the infrastructure that people need and that’s not just rail and road but also high-speed broadband is I think really important as well and at this election this is a chance to move back to where we should never have moved away from, which is fibre to the home and business instead of a second-rate broadband system with copper that Malcolm Turnbull wants to turn the NBN into.
You’re going to be DJing in Melbourne – do you have some exciting tunes lined up or are you just going to go with the feeling on the day?
Well there’s a bit of a theme of Melbourne music, so songs that are about Melbourne, like Weddings, Parties, Anything’s Under the Clocks, and Dan Sultan’s Old Fitzroy, and Paul Kelly’s from St Kilda to King’s Cross, so there’ll be a few Melbourne references and Melbourne bands as a particular emphasis, like TISM, Nick Cave, Courtney Barnett. So I certainly haven’t finalised the playlist, I probably won’t until the day, but it’s a good event raising money for charity, for Reclink in the lead-up to the Community Cup. They do great work connecting young people up with mainstream society but doing through music and sport which is a great way to connect with people. We also announced funding for Reclink last Saturday at Young Henry’s brewers – we announced that their funding would be returned that had been cut by the government of $1.4 million a year, for four years.
So I think it will be a fun event and I’m looking forward to it. Tim Rogers’ new band The Draught Dodgers are playing as well, so that will be good because he spent a lot of time hanging around Newtown as well, so I know him from those days.
So last year at the Melbourne game you smashed a can of Mountain Goat in the Rock Dogs changerooms before the game, will you be doing that again this year?
I don’t know that I’ll get to the game this year, I’m playing in the Sydney game but that’s later in July so I might not get to the Melbourne game, depends on how the campaign is going!
So a lot of people say “Albo for PM” – if you were PM, what is the first thing you would do?
Oh, well, I don’t think that’s about to happen in the short term! I think in politics one of the things I do is whatever position I hold is just to try and stay true to my roots and remember where you come from. And I think that’s really important that politicians are authentic to who they are and to what their beliefs are, I’ve tried to do that.